Barnardo’s ‘disappointed’ by Government’s failure to address holes in mental health services for children

The Government’s response to a consultation on a Green Paper published today, fails to address gaping holes in mental health provision for children, says Barnardo’s, the UK’s leading children’s charity.

The charity, which provides vital mental health services for vulnerable children and young people in the community, warns the Government is still sleep-walking into the deepening crisis in children’s mental health.

It says it remains supportive of government plans to improve mental health services, but thinks it’s too little- reaching only 25% of the country, and too late- spread over the next four years.

Whilst it welcomes the announcement of a new NHS mental health workforce dedicated to supporting children in schools and colleges, Barnardo’s says the Government’s response to the children’s mental health Green paper consultation, which was published today (July 25), has failed to significantly address concerns on its ambition to transform.

The response focusses on so-called ‘trailblazer’ sites, made up of NHS and key local stakeholders, such as schools, local authorities and third sector organisations, to pilot and roll-out Mental Health Support Teams.

Yet these will still not reach the vast majority – a conservative estimate says it won’t help 75% of England until 2022- raising the prospect of hundreds of thousands of children missing out on getting the help they so desperately need, here and now.

Barnardo’s is also deeply concerned that the announcement does not mention the importance of early intervention in primary schools, regarded by the charity as crucial to transforming and stemming a deepening mental health crisis.

Young people supported by Barnardo’s also took part in the Green Paper consultation, with their major concern being waiting time targets.

They want the initial assessment with a mental health specialist to take place within days of a child reporting an issue. But the Government has proposed a maximum four-week waiting time – and only within pilot areas, meaning large parts of the country will still be lagging behind.

This is better than the current average maximum waiting time in Child and Adolescent Mental Health of six months for a first appointment and nearly 10 months until the start of treatment*. But it is still not good enough.

Barnardo’s is calling on the Government to use some of the £20.5 billion extra funding promised to the NHS in England by 2023/24 to help stop the children’s mental health crisis and bringing waiting times down across the country, not just in a handful of pilot sites.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “Theresa May has described mental illness as a burning injustice that required a new approach from Government.

“However, actions speak louder than words. The Government’s response to the Green Paper consultation does not show enough action on how as a society we are going to stop sleepwalking into a children’s mental health crisis.

“The response has let down the children who gave their views about the problems with the Green Paper and if the Government does not rethink its approach, it runs the risk of letting down future generations too.”